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Program Profile: Specialized Multi Agency Response Team (SMART)

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 10, 2011

Program Summary

A drug-control program designed to reduce drug-related problems and improve habitation conditions at targeted sites. The program is rated Effective. Half the treatment sites experienced improvements in field contacts or arrests. There were reductions in the number of individuals contacted or arrested at the same SMART site; in the number of persons displaced to a catchment area address; and in the number of new individuals attracted to a site (suggesting a small net diffusion of benefits).

Program Description

Program Goals

Specialized Multi Agency Response Teams (SMARTs) are part of a team-based approach to reduce drug-related problems and improve habitation conditions at targeted problem sites.


Target Population/Eligibility

As part of the Oakland Beat Health program, target sites are identified by police according to the number of emergency calls from an area, the number of narcotic arrests there, or special requests for police assistance from community-based groups. Sites can be residential or commercial, and they often experience multiple problems—from blight to squatters to prostitution.


Program Activities

Once a site has been identified, the police visit the area and meet with various stakeholders (such as community representatives, landlords, and business owners) to establish working relationships. Police attempt to communicate to the stakeholders that they (the police) are invested in cleaning up the area. The police suggest simple crime prevention measures and explain landlords’ rights and tenants’ responsibilities. Activities can vary by site and include alternative, problem-solving tactics (e.g., inspecting drug-nuisance properties, posting “no trespassing” signs) and traditional law enforcement tactics (e.g., the arrest of drug dealers, increased police patrols at targeted sites).


If these early measures do not lead to improvements, police deploy SMARTs to identify violations of various civil laws and regulatory rules. The team can include representatives from a variety of agencies, including housing, public works, fire, vector control, and the public utilities. These representatives inspect local properties, and when violations are identified to local fire, housing, or public works, vector control, or public utilities, the city inspectors issue citations. The most common citation is for violating the housing code. When violations are not rectified, civil laws can be used to bring suit against owners of drug-nuisance properties. In California, this stage leads to about 2 percent of SMART cases being referred for formal court action against the property owner.


The SMART program includes the Landlord Training Program, which encourages landlords to screen potential renters. The landlords also learn about the processes for evicting unsatisfactory tenants who are causing problems.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

Field Contacts and Arrests

Green (1995) found that almost half of the treatment sites (45.8 percent) experienced improvements in rates of contact or arrest; only 13 percent (42 sites) grew worse. About 75 percent of catchment areas showed improvements in contact and arrest rates; roughly 20 percent (66 sites) grew worse. Forty percent of sites showed improvement both at the target site and in the surrounding area. Green found a statistically significant relationship between what happened at the target site and what happened in the surrounding border area. This relationship suggested that when police efforts succeeded in affecting target sites it often then spilled over into the boundary areas (diffusion of benefits). When such efforts failed, catchment areas sometimes worsened.


Number of People Arrested or Contacted

There was a significant decrease in the mean number of people contacted at the SMART sites: from 3.7 in the year before SMART implementation to 1.5 in the year following, a 59 percent decrease. In the catchment areas, there was a decrease from 42 persons to 32 contacted/arrested—a decrease of 24 percent. There were statistically significant reductions in the number in individuals contacted or arrested at the same SMART site (64 percent), in number of persons displaced from a SMART site to a catchment area address (35 percent), and in the number of new individuals attracted to a SMART site (76 percent).


These reductions suggested a small net diffusion of benefits from the SMART implementation.

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

Green (1995) conducted a quasi-experimental study with comparison sites to assess whether crime reductions in the experimental area had benefited nearby areas or crime simply had been displaced to other areas. The sample included 321 sites that received a SMART intervention in 1991. About half of the sites had multiple problems. The large majority of sites (87 percent) were residential, and about three fourths of the properties were leased or rented. The median value of targeted properties was $69,824, though five were valued at more than $1 million; the median home property value in Oakland at the time was $185,000.


Data were obtained from the Oakland Police Department on all narcotics arrests and field contacts (instances when police stopped and talked to people at the problem location) from 1990 through 1992 (n=117,917). A total of 22,335 individuals accounted for 70,783 contacts or arrests during this period at the SMART sites and in the catchment areas. Before the intervention, each experimental site averaged about 38 arrests and 34 field contacts a year. To capture either the displacement or diffusion effects of the SMART implementation, a two-block boundary around each site was delineated. Green used computerized crime-mapping software to map the 321 sites and measured baseline levels of offenders’ mobility patterns before the implementation of SMARTs.


Green conducted a two-stage analysis. In the first stage, she assessed the overall rate of change in the catchment areas before and after implementation of the SMARTs. She assessed the total and mean numbers of people contacted/arrested at the SMART locations and in the surrounding catchment areas. In the second stage, she assessed displacement or diffusion effects by “tracking the time sequence and the points of arrest and field contact for people moving around within these areas” (749).

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Green, Lorraine. 1995. “Cleaning Up Drug Hot Spots in Oakland, Calif.: The Displacement and Diffusion Effects.” Justice Quarterly 12(4):737–54.

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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Mazerolle, Lorraine Green, James Price, and Jan Roehl. 2000. “Civil Remedies and Drug Control: A Randomized Field Trial in Oakland, California.” Evaluation Review 24(2):212–41.

Mazerolle, Lorraine Green, and Jan Roehl. 1999. Controlling Drug and Disorder Problems: A Focus on Oakland’s Beat Health Problems. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Problem-Oriented Policing
These analytic methods are used by police to develop crime prevention and reduction strategies. The practice is rated Promising and led to a significant decline in crime and disorder.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types

Street-Level Drug Law Enforcement
This practice includes targeted-policing approaches for reducing drug and drug-related offenses. This practice is rated Promising in reducing reported, drug-related calls for services and offenses against persons. This practice is rated No Effects in reducing reported property offenses, public order calls for service, and total offenses.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Drug and alcohol offenses
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Violent offenses
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Property offenses
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Public order offenses
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting, High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots

Program Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Community Awareness/Mobilization, Community Crime Prevention , Situational Crime Prevention, Hot Spots Policing

Current Program Status: Active

Lorraine Mazerolle
The University of Queensland, ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security (CEPS), The Institute for Social Science Research
Room 437, Bldg No 39A, St Lucia Campus
Phone: +61 7 334 67877
Fax: +61 7 334 67